I work for: Chris Tarrant

Susan Miller is PA to radio presenter and TV personality Chris Tarrant
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The Independent Culture
I used to work at TV-am and loved it there but had to leave when it lost its franchise. The head of personnel there was a friend of mine so she let me know of a job going in Capital Radio's programming before it went up on the board. I went through the whole interview without knowing what the job was and it was only when I started that I realised it included looking after Chris Tarrant's mail. As I watched Chris walking around studying long lists, it soon occurred to me that he didn't have a PA. I persuaded him that there was much I could do to free him up, from arranging his diary to selecting funny stories for the show. Capital were enthusiastic too because now Chris could concentrate on being a TV and radio personality.

He starts at 5am and I join him three hours later. From 8am until 10am I sit with him in the studio and while the records are spinning we work - it's the only time we have. The hours are perfect for me, I leave between 3pm and 4pm, which gives me some time with my little girl until she goes to bed, after which I have an hour for research.

The Breakfast Show is fundamentally very light hearted, people don't like going to work, so they need something funny to cheer them up. I search for "wacky" stories, particularly from the US - the "alien landed on my lawn" story or "most men say they would prefer to drive their car than have sex" survey. I find it very satisfying to hear the stories I've selected and written the night before as I'm brushing my teeth in the morning, but I wouldn't want to be a presenter myself. I really wouldn't want to get up in the morning feeling that I had to say something funny. Chris always says thank you and if I've worked particularly hard he gives me a bottle of champagne.

Compared with most of the other presenters, Chris has a big team including a producer, an engineer, a technical person and me, but I do sometimes wish he was given a full-time researcher because I have to juggle this with the rest of my work. It is an intimate working environment. I've been here six years but I am the newest member of the team. We all go on outings together and Chris takes us out for a treat twice a year. I'm friends with Chris outside work too and often take my daughter to his house in Warwickshire for the weekend.

At TV-am I worked with some really pretentious presenters but Chris doesn't have airs and graces or an ego. He likes the fact that radio is so live, a theme could occur to him as he's driving in and he can try it out that morning whereas if it was TV it would require months of meetings and a pilot.

I'm the kind of person who likes to cross things off a list throughout the day but it gets very hectic and I'm always trying to catch up and there's never enough time to go to lunch. We've just moved into a new computerised studio and things often go wrong which isn't very amusing when timing is so precise. When the phone lines go down it throws everything because a big part of the show is devoted to phone-ins from callers who chat, moan or share jokes. Unfortunately many assume that they can chat with him after the show about personal things. They don't understand that he needs to be able to switch off or that he can't open every charity, listen to every demo or write back every letter personally. I hear the disappointment in their voice so I let them down gently, talking with them and making them feel that at least Chris knows that they are there even if he can't speak to them. Similarly it's always strange when people stop to greet "Chrissy Wissy" in the street for a chat. On the other hand, those who have no hopes of a response to their letter are thrilled to get his signed reply.

A tailor once rang to tell Chris that he looked a mess, Chris rose to the challenge and a few weeks later the tailor called by with a suit he had made for him. Chris loved the suit so much that when the tailor offered him a 50/50 business partnership in a new clothes company, Chris accepted it and "Made in Italy" is now up and running.

If Chris was to retire or went to live in France or give it all up to be a professional fisherman, I might move into research since I think I'm quite good at it. But he's signed up until the millennium and I doubt that he will disappear.

I used to have a longing to get back into television, but I don't think the hours suit family life, and after six years as a PA I think I've left it too late.

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